Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Lost River and the Old Man of the Mountain

 On our drive back to Lebanon from Berlin, we stopped at Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire's White Mountains. 

This picture hardly does Franconia Notch justice. These were some of the highest, sheerest, most incredible mountains I've ever seen. 

Franconia Notch is also a popular ski destination, which to someone as terrified of skiing as me, seems completely insane. All year long, visitors can ride to the top of the mountain via this ariel tramway, and I was both relieved and saddened when it cost too much to fit in our budget. I'm sure the view from the top would have been fantastic, but the ride itself seemed spine tingling. 

Franconia Notch State Park was also home to New Hampshire's famous Old Man of the Mountain, a series of 5 granite cliffs that, when viewed from a particular angle, perfectly formed the profile of a face. Someone first noticed the profile in 1805, and sadly, it collapsed for good in 2003, after an incredible amount of work and funding went in to trying to secure the Old Man's features in place. When Dave lived in this area, he got to see the profile in person several times before its collapse. 

From Franconia Notch, we continued on our drive until we decided to pull off and hike down a trail to the Lost River. 

The Lost River was just as mystical and ancient as its name implies, and we were overwhelmed by its beauty. The bottom of the river had a neat red color to it.

It is amazing to think that these boulders were once chunks of mountains, loosened by glaciers moving through this basin and creating this incredible landscape. 

The Lost River flows rapidly over rocks in many spots, but we were able to find a calm spot to the side of the river and went in for a very refreshing dip. Running through the mountains, the water was extremely cold, but it helped set the precedent for water temperature; now, whenever we dip into a river, the water hardly seems chilly. 

Determined to avoid all highways on our drive, we ended up on a very rural route that went through the White Mountains National Forest. It didn't take us long to realize we were literally driving up the side of a mountain. For miles, the only direction we went was up, never passing a single gas station, house, or person, and only seeing a single other car. We joked that we'd better get a good view after all this, and paused to be thankful for our 2013 van, knowing none of the older model vehicles we considered buying would have made it up this cliff. When we finally made it to the top, we were speechless. 

This was our view of the White Mountains! 

After a steep downhill descent and some more amazing views, we came out of the White Mountains National Forest and made our way to the tiny town of Warren, home to a Redstone Missile. 

A kind guy named Henry "Ted" Asselin decided the kids of Warren might be prompted to develop an interest in the space program if they could see a part of it up close and personal, and not just on TV. He got the notion to bring a Redstone Missile to Warren after seeing a pile of them stored as army surplus, and so set out on an adventure to secure, transport, and pay for the missile, which made it to Warren, New Hampshire, in 1971. 

The missile weighs 8 tons and is secured in an 8-foot deep foundation with 5 huge steel I-beams set in cement. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hydroelectricity, Lupines, and the World's Best Breakfast in Berlin

As I mentioned in our last post, we drove to Berlin, New Hampshire, this past weekend to kayak with Dave's brother and family. Dave's brother, who is there temporarily on an electrician job, is renting an apartment right next to this restaurant, Guldie's. We went twice during our time in Berlin! 

We really can't say enough good things about Guldie's. Their portions are extremely generous- Jesse's son ordered two pancakes, which were each larger than the size of his plate, and the prices can't be beat- no where else in the North can you get 5 thick slices of real bacon, eggs, an english muffin, and half a plateful of home fries for $4.99, plus a dollar for a cup of coffee! If we could, we would eat every meal on the road here. 

Guldie's is also doing great things in their community. They encourage guests to bring in canned and non-perishable goods, and if they do, they receive a discount of 10% off their total bill. These canned goods are then donated to the local food pantry. 

Along with the community service, quality food, and great prices, another thing to love about Guldie's is the New York-style energy and atmosphere, provided in spades by the owner, who also cooks and chats with customers and waitstaff through the open window to the kitchen. If you're in the New Hampshire area, Guldie's alone is a top-notch reason to visit Berlin. Thank you Guldie's! 

The city of Berlin draws its lifeblood from the Androscoggin river running through it. By the end of the 19th century, the Androscoggin Valley was home to some of the largest paper-producing companies in the world. We drove past one that is still in operation today. Also, many logging companies operated beside the river. The place where we rented our kayaks was right next to a lumber mill still in operation, and it served as our marker for where to get out of the river. As we were kayaking, we came across heavy chains attached to many rocky islands in the middle of the river, which we learned were long ago used by the logging companies to create a sort of locks system to keep each company's logs separate as they harnessed the natural current of the river to help transport the felled trees downstream. 

As early as the 1850's, hydropower provided the majority of New Hampshire's electric generating capacity. By the early 1900's, the Berlin Mills Company completed construction of a dam and powerhouse, which still remain virtually intact. Hydroelectricity is still being produced from this section of the Androscoggin; in fact, electric work on the powerhouse is what brought Dave's brother to Berlin for work. In 2007, New Hampshire adopted a renewable energy portfolio requiring 25% of the state's electricity to be generated from renewable sources, including hydroelectricity, by 2025. 

Fishing is another use of the Androscoggin. We captured some neat shots of this guy fishing in a shallow part of the river. 

This old railroad bridge led to a fantastic trail. 

Dave really enjoys the symmetry of bridges. This double-layered one was really visually appealing. 

From the top of the railroad bridge was this amazing view of the surrounding White Mountains. We could have stayed and soaked it in all day. 

The tracks on top of the railroad bridge have been covered over with wooden boards to allow the trail to double as a path for snowmobiles, which are very popular in this area during the winter. 

This was also a rad trail for cyclists. 

As we were leaving Berlin, we encountered fields of these breathtaking flowers, called lupines, every few hundred feet. They grow wild, and are just as plentiful as dandelions. 

We were entranced by these. 

Coupled with the mountains in the background, this could easily be called one of our favorite views from the trip so far. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Moose Crossings and Church Preservation in the White Mountains

On Saturday morning, we went with Austin to his last Little League game of the season. Each player got a trophy, there was a free BBQ, and the parents played a game against the kids. Dave and Austin both had a fun time. At one point Dave stole (literally picked up and ran with) first base, getting a good laugh and some rule explanations from chorus of young voices. Some of the kids were really incredible athletes already and it was great to see all the kids having fun and learning about sportsmanship at the same time. 

After the baseball game and a quick dip in the community pool to cool off, Dave and I started the 3 hour trip North to Berlin, New Hampshire, where we were going to kayak with Dave's brother, Jesse, and his wife and kids. 

The sky was darkening as we drove, and as we got higher in the mountains, the fog began to roll in the valley below us. 

This was a rare occasion when we actually used a highway, which ended up working out for the best because we got these awesome views of the foggy valley from a scenic pull-off area along the interstate. 

In the amount of time it took us to snap a few photos, the fog became this much thicker.

After driving on the highway for a while longer, we got off an exit to spend the rest of the trip on roads less traveled. Though it was close to getting dark, we couldn't resist stopping at this beautiful old church. 

When we were taking pictures, the neighbors in the house next door said "Hello," and we struck up a conversation. Turns out the church, named the Ivie Memorial Protestant Episcopal Church of the Messiah, was built in 1930 by a man as a memorial for his daughter, Ivie, who died young and unexpectedly. The church seems to have quite a history in the community. Long ago decommissioned, a developer bought the property the church sits on and announced his plans to tear it down to build a road for a planned housing community. A friend of the church's neighbors, who was there to tell us this story personally, helped preserve the church and save it from being razed by the developer. The developer still owns the property the church is sitting on, but is now prohibited from tearing it down. The developer is quoted as saying he will just wait till the church rots away, but we have news for him: that church will most likely outlive him! Its sturdy stone construction is showing no signs of decay, and, thankfully, it will be there for years and years to come. 

Decaying churches and barns are something we've noticed consistently in our travels, and something we discussed with the church's neighbors. While there are many individuals and groups working hard for historical preservation, America is much less focused on preserving old structures, like churches and barns, than European countries, which have healthy numbers of old structures providing a link to their countries pasts. It is difficult to get people to rally behind historical preservation, and we applaud the individuals who do so. Thank you for preserving America's history! We sincerely appreciate your work. 

The neighboring house to the Ivie Memorial Church. 

As we continued North into the White Mountains, we began seeing Moose Crossing signs every few miles. I really wanted to see a moose on this journey, and Dave and I talked about how neat it would be to see a moose crossing the road like a deer. In a completely surreal moment, around dusk, a moose appeared out of the woods and proceeded to cross the two-lane road we were on. Unlike deer, which are jolty and jumpy, the moose was the most graceful creature I've ever seen. He was a full grown bull moose with a complete early summer rack on his head. He must have been trotting, but appeared to float across the road with the grace of a ballerina. Dave has always told me how moose disappear amazingly fast into the woods, and this moose proved that. Despite his giant size, when he reached the other side of the road, he vanished into the woods like a magician. It was a magical first moose sighting experience for me, and I couldn't be more grateful! 

Railroad Tracks and Rivers

Around every corner in New Hampshire is a great place to explore. Abandoned railroad tracks and rivers are two of our favorite spots. As someone who had never even walked along a set of tracks before, I'm grateful Dave has shared his love of railroad tracks with me. They are wonderful places for an adventure. 

If a train had somehow ended up on this track by accident, I doubt this tiny red sign would really give the conductor adequate time to stop. 

We love the look and feel of overgrown train tracks. They're quiet and peaceful. 

We didn't actually find a path through this brush; we turned around here. It's amazing how quickly nature can take over without human interference. 

The long elevated bridge we crossed was right over the river. There are pretty big gaps in between the railroad ties, and though they're not wide enough to fall through, they're large enough to make your brain think there is danger! Dave is much more daring than I am to take pictures like this; I prefer just to keep walking. 

We got a fantastic view of the river from the elevated railroad bridge. 

If the wood didn't look quite so weather worn and rotten, this overhang would be ideal for fishing

We also got a view of this small hydro-electric power station, which are quite common throughout New Hampshire.  

After a steep descent, we made it down to the river. 

We both love the rivers, creeks, and streams in this region. A river filled with rocks and boulders just looks right, Dave always says. They certainly are the most beautiful to look at, in my opinion. 

Dave has also taught me a love for the art of walking in rivers on stones, another thing he grew up doing. 

To get back to the park where we started our adventure, we opted to cross to the bank on this fallen tree instead of going back upstream by rock. Dave found a long stick to help us balance as we crossed. And, like a gentleman, he crossed first just to make sure the log was sturdy. 

Some of Dave's artistic photography from the day, which we'll be putting up for sale in our Etsy store shortly. 

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